BEN Stokes has long been touted as the new Ian Botham or Freddie Flintoff, and Durham's new chairman yesterday backed the England all-rounder's decision to cash in on his stardom.

Stokes last week became the highest paid overseas player in the history of the Indian Premier League with a £1.4m contract and Botham said: “He's a breath of fresh air.

“He's uncomplicated and he plays every game to win. He has a New Zealand background, but he's very loyal to Durham and we look on him as a local.

“He has come up through the ranks and taken his opportunity. If you have that carrot dangling more players will want to have a go at it.”

Botham stressed that he feels Test cricket is still the ultimate, but Twenty20 cricket has become increasingly important.

“If Test matches go, cricket goes,” he said. “I'm not sure how anyone would have played the scoop shot against Malcolm Marshall or Michael Holding or Andy Roberts, but T20 is a vehicle to bring people back into grounds.

“Kerry Packer revolutionised the game 30 years ago and we have to keep moving with the times. If the rewards are there cricketers should be entitled to them as much as footballers or any other sportsmen.”

With a new city-based T20 tournament in the pipeline, Botham said: “It should be areas rather than cities and we expect to be involved. If you look at the success of the Big Bash in Australia we want to take a bit from that and a bit from the IPL.

“I can't believe any county chairman wouldn't see the benefits. We wouldn't have an auction like the IPL, but there could be a transfer system.”

There have been suggestions that the ECB's plans for regional academies might be a threat to Durham's highly-rated academy.

“You don't re-invent the wheel,” said Botham. “We have a very good academy and it would be ridiculous for it not to be here. Durham's record is there for all to see and we have to build on that.”